Smartphone product profiling to empower a new ‘eco’ consumer

CONSUMERS will be able to count the cost of a product’s impact on the environment via a new smartphone-accessed system.
As part of a £2.6 million study involving Nottingham Trent University – which is being coordinated by Bavarian-based company TriaGnoSys – experts are developing an electronic system to provide shoppers across the globe with a rating of how sustainable a product or service is.
Using smartphones, myEcoCost will enable people to scan barcodes and instantly receive data on a product before they buy it. The aim is for consumers to easily identify which products have the smallest carbon footprint, which use the least resources and which are the healthiest for them to consume.
Shoppers will also be able to view information about their own carbon footprint online using a system similar to reward or loyalty card schemes. It would record the cumulative ecological cost of the products or services they have purchased.
Professor Daizhong Su, head of the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Engineering Centre at the university’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, said: “The aim is for consumers to make a more environmentally conscious decision about what they buy. For example, shoppers may choose a ‘greener’ product over another item which is the same price if they know that it has less of an impact on the environment.
“The desired knock-on effect of this would be that manufacturers would refocus their priorities and make their products and processes more sustainable, with luxury packaging, for instance, becoming a thing of the past and being deemed distasteful by society.”

Existing infrastructure
The system – which would be applied to any product or service, from groceries to travel tickets – would utilise existing accounting systems to allow for the flow of information in a similar way to how VAT is communicated.
Co-funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, the three year project is being undertaken by a consortium comprising Nottingham Trent University, Boots UK, Ecover Belgium, GS1 Germany, CFF Carbon Calculator, the Wuppertal Institute, Enviro Data, Robert Mostyn and TriaGnoSys. Nottingham Trent University’s research focuses on calculation models and the communications infrastructure.